Green group: Palace testing the waters on the mining EO

ENVIRONMENTALISTS group today expressed apprehension over the content of the draft Executive Order (EO) on the mining industry.

“Malacanang seems to be testing the waters in its dilly-dallying over the EO’s release. Is this a ploy to condition the public’s minds to accept the bad or controversial provisions in this EO?” asked Frances Quimpo Secretary-General of Kalikasan Partylist.

Earlier reports quoted Malacanang as saying that the EO would be signed last week. The full contents of this draft EO have yet to be broadly discussed, despite opposition from environmental advocates, Church groups, and more than 40 provincial governors, Quimpo asserted.

“Only the Chamber of Mines – those who stand to profit immensely from the mining industry – seem to have any inkling of what the EO contains and are in fact the only ones eagerly awaiting its promulgation. In contrast, most affected communities, green groups, indigenous peoples and even local governments around the country are being kept in the dark about the EO’s final contents,” Quimpo.

Quimpo challenged the Palace to publicly and broadly release the draft for all stakeholders to read before President Aquino signs it. “The Palace unfairly dismisses critiques and expressions of opposition to the mining EO as mere ‘speculation’ yet keeps the full draft shrouded in secrecy,” she said.

Media reports have so far revealed that the mining EO proposes to have national laws prevail over local laws with regards to small-scale mining, introduce a new category of “medium-scale” mining, identify areas where mining should be prohibited, and propose more fiscal revenue measures.

“Offhand, these proposals are not enough,” Quimpo said, reacting to the reports. “The proposal to have national laws prevail over local governments will pave the way for more conflict and unrestricted environmental destruction and in fact there are already legal opinions saying that this is unconstitutional. The new category of “medium-scale mining” must be subjected to through review and scrutiny, at the very least. And if the country is to truly benefit from the industry, it must go beyond getting more money and revenue from mining and instead reorient mining to support the development of national industries and downstream processing,” she explained.

“The “no mining” zones should be explicitly identified and should also take into account what local communities want,” she added. Civil society organizations have last year filed proposed House Bills, such as HB 4315 or the People’s Mining Bill, identifying areas where mining should not commence and proposing a more thorough process of public consultation. The consolidate bill is currently being discussed in the House Committee on Natural Resources.

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